Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, controls the company via a personal stake of shares for 7% ownership, plus the shares held via the family’s owned Swoosh, LLC, in addition to the shares in possession of his son’s Trust. Phil Knight directly controls a significant stake in Nike’s Class A and B shares, valued at over $40 billion.
Phil Knight is an American billionaire best known as the co-founder of Nike where he has also held the roles of chairman and CEO.
Knight retired from Nike in 2016 after 52 years of service and, according to Forbes, is the 17th richest person in the United States with a net worth of $41.5 billion. Below we will discuss the events that precipitated Nike and some of Knight’s other pursuits.
Knight was a keen runner from an early age and was known to jog the seven-mile distance between his home in Oregon and employee Advance Publications. The company owned daily newspaper The Oregonian where Knight worked part-time tabulating sports scores.
At the University of Oregon, he became employed as a sports reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald. He also ran on the track and field team, and it was there that he would meet coach and eventual business partner Bill Bowerman.
Knight noticed Bowerman’s passion for running and how the performance of athletes increased after he tinkered with their shoes.
Knight then enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. As part of one of his classes, he authored the paper Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?
Wanting to import high-quality, low-cost Japanese running shoes into the United States, Knight embarked on a round-the-world trip after he graduated in 1962. He made a stop in Kobe, Japan, and discovered the Tiger brand of running shoes manufactured by Onitsuka Co. (later Asics).
After meeting with Mr. Onitsuka himself, a deal was struck that would enable Knight to import Tiger shoes into America. The first pairs of shoes would take more than a year to arrive with Knight working as an accountant in the interim.
When the first shoes did arrive, he mailed a pair to Bowerman to see if he would be interested in buying or endorsing them.
Blue Ribbon Sports and Nike
Bowerman expressed interest in not only buying the shoes but also acting as a consultant and partner who could provide design ideas. The two men subsequently formed Blue Ribbon Sports with a handshake on January 25, 1964.
According to Sports Illustrated writer Donald Katz, Knight initially ran the company (named for a beer label) from ”a storefront hole-in-the-wall next to the Pink Bucket Tavern in a working-class section of Portland.” Knight was also known to sell shoes from the back of his green Plymouth Valiant at track meets.
Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike in May 1971.
Knight took a 15% stake in computer animation and claymation company Vinton Studios in 1998. Four years later and with Vinton Studios in dire financial trouble, Knight provided additional capital and guaranteed repayment of the company’s debts.
With enough shares to take control of the company, Knight transitioned from a passive investor to chairman of the board. He then concocted a plan to move away from television and concentrate on animated films where Pixar and Disney had found success.
Vinton Studios was rebranded as Laika and Knight invested a further $180 million. The money was used to fund the company’s first feature film Coraline and Knight used his clout to attract animation veterans from Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar.
Under his direction, Laika now produces animated feature films in addition to commercial work such as music videos and ads.
- Phil Knight is an American billionaire best known as the co-founder of Nike where he has also held the roles of chairman and CEO. Knight retired from Nike after 52 years and, according to Forbes, is the 17th richest person in the United States.
- Knight worked for various newspapers in his youth and graduated from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1992. Whilst at Stanford, he authored a paper discussing the merits of importing shoes from Japan to sell in the USA.
- Knight traveled to Japan post-university and convinced Onitsuka to let him import their Tiger brand shoes. He sent a pair to Bowerman with the pair starting Blue Ribbon Sports soon after. After Nike, Knight took control of the animation company Vinton Studios.
Read Also: Nike Business Model, Nike Mission Stateme
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